Summer 2016 was an eventful one for Robert Howard.
His 2015 orchestral work Cortege, dedicated to David Kernick, was rehearsed in a workshop session by the 70-strong Uppingham Summer School Orchestra in Rutland, East Midlands, last August. The run-through was ably led by professional conductor Wyn Davies, Director of Music at New Zealand Opera.
Also in August, Robert conducted the Phoenix Concert Orchestra on a tour of the Vendée department of France, in two concerts of light music and selections from films and musicals. The first concert was outdoors in the artisan village of Sallertaine, as part of the Nocturnes Festival (pictured), while the second was at the Le Dix theatre in Nantes. Rob was joined by fellow conductor Jill Hyde, and both performances were well attended and enthusiastically received.
Robert Howard’s 2016 choral work Ave verum corpus is to be sung at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King this October.
The Cathedral Choir will perform the work under the baton of director Dr Christopher McElroy, with James Luxton at the organ, as part of the St Edward’s College Mass at 11am on Sunday 16 October. This annual service typically attracts the cathedral’s biggest congregation of the year, with about 2,000 in attendance.
Ave verum corpus was first sung by Prescot Parish Church Choir on Good Friday 2016. Listen to that recording – and Sibelius recordings of it and its companion piece Jubilate Deo’s arrangements for solo voice and organ/piano – on the Choral & Vocal Works page.
Robert Howard will perform his own 2002 solo bassoon work La Reproduction Interdite this Friday, 23 September.
The 75-minute concert also features pieces by Puccini, Schubert, Fauré and others, performed by Prescot musicians Tim Hall (organ), Laura Bonnett (flute), David Kernick (tenor) and Robert himself, on bassoon and piano.
Parish Musicians in Concert starts at 7pm at Prescot Parish Church, and tickets are just £5 on the door. Entry includes complimentary cake and wine. All proceeds go towards parish funds.
Following a string of successful performances of his works at this year’s Prescot Festival – and as he approaches his 40th distinguished year – Robert Howard has several more performances of his compositions in the pipeline.
The composer himself will be at the piano on Friday 23 September at 7.00pm at Prescot Parish Church, when he plays three of his piano miniatures: Chorale for St Andrews, Still and In Memory. The third of these will be the premiere of the arrangement. You can listen to all three and view score excerpts on the compositions page.
The concert, which also features flautist Laura Bonnett, tenor David Kernick and organist Tim Hall, is a fundraiser for the parish, and tickets are just £5 on the door. Over an hour of music will be followed by cake and wine, included in the admission price.
December 2016 sees Robert in concert with the South Liverpool Orchetra, when he will be soloist in Elgar’s Romance for bassoon and orchestra. The SLO Christmas Concert takes place at Hope University Chapel on Tuesday 6 December at 8pm, and the £4 admission price includes a buffet.
Prescot Parish Church Choir give the first performance of the SATB arrangement of Robert’s 2002 carol A Babe Is Born on Thursday 8 December. Several local church and school choirs also take part in this Christmas concert, held in aid of the Mayor of Prescot’s charities. It starts at 7.00pm at Prescot Parish Church and costs £5 on the door, including refreshments.
Robert also has seasonal conducting engagements with Prescot Parish Church Choir, Phoenix Concert Orchestra and St Edward’s College orchestras throughout December.
And finally, Robert is delighted to announce that his two 2016 sacred choral works, Ave verum corpus and Jubilate Deo, both written for and premiered by Prescot Parish Church Choir, have entered the repertoire of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (Youth) Choir and the choirs of St Edward’s College, Liverpool. Listen to the original performances here.
Photo: Robert Howard conducts the South Liverpool Orchestra with trumpeter Hannah Mackenzie at the 2016 Prescot Festival (Christopher Lyon Photography)
The final night of upcoming Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts will feature two works by the festival’s Founder and Artistic Director, Dr Robert Howard.
Opening on Friday 17 June, the 10-day programme ends on Sunday 26 June with Choral Evensong followed by a Regal Festival Finale.
At Festival Choral Evensong (6pm, Prescot Parish Church), the parish’s own choir, with organist Tim Hall, will perform a new sacred piece, Jubilate Deo, that Robert has composed especially for the occasion.
Written with flexibility, simplicity and singability for younger choristers in mind, the anthem is something of a companion piece to Ave Verum Corpus, written for the choir to premiere on Good Friday, earlier this year. It is dedicated to the Reverend Captain Peter Cowley.
See score excerpts and hear an electronic recording here.
Then, in the finale at 7.30pm, Rob will conduct the South Liverpool Orchestra in a Proms-style programme that includes music by such luminaries of British music as Walton and Elgar.
Among these will be Robert’s four-movement Festival Suite. In form and style, it echoes both Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony and Malcolm Arnold’s dance suites inspired by the various nations making up the British Isles, and it is dedicated to the latter composer in honour of his passing in 2006.
The suite uses material Robert wrote in his youth and later revised or orchestrated, and it was first compiled for and performed by the Knowsley Youth Orchestra, under Simon Gay, in their 2006-2007 season, first at the Conference of British Youth Orchestras, then at the Kirkby Civic Suite, and finally at the third Prescot Festival.
Its movements are:
I) Procession (1995)
II) Dance (1994)
III) Folksong (1993)
IV) Like Clockwork (2003), an homage to Prescot’s clock-making heritage originally commissioned for the KYO
The 12th Annual Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts runs from Friday 17 to Sunday 26 June, and full programme information is online at www.prescotfestival.co.uk.
As conductor of the South Liverpool Orchestra since 2011, Robert was delighted to lead them in celebrating their 40th anniversary on 17th May.
The programme at the gala concert featured the best of British composers, including Benjamin Britten, Edward Elgar, William Walton and Robert Howard himself.
His 1995 orchestral piece Procession was originally written as an A-level music submission, and was first performed by – and dedicated to – the Wirral Youth Orchestra under conductor Anthony Ridley.
Alan Humphreys captured the occasion on camera, and you can soak up the festive atmosphere yourself by viewing the full album on the SLO Facebook page.
In other composition-related news, the Liverpool division of the Royal School of Church Music recently chose Robert’s Ave Verum Corpus– written for Good Friday 2016 for Prescot Parish Church Choir – as part of the programme for a ‘Come & Sing’ workshop featuring choirs from across the diocese.
Dr Ian Sharp conducted, with George Swift at the organ. The Passiontide anthem, written with flexibility, simplicity and singability in mind, has generated interest from several church choirs.
And in case you missed it, back in March, one of Robert’s older compositions was given new life again in a London performance by the KNM Campus Ensemble of Berlin.
Robert’s 2000 composition Promenade IV was performed on Saturday 5 March at King’s Place, London, as part of the two-day Festival of Contemporary Music for All (CoMA).
The performance took place in the second-level atrium, which was ideally positioned outside several of the rooms being used for workshops, as well as being directly visible from the venue’s main coffee shop and meeting space.
The 10-piece KNM Campus Ensemble from Berlin performed Robert’s flexibly scored piece on three violins, four flutes, bass flute, bass clarinet and keyboard. During the performance, an image of Anthony Caro’s Promenade sculptures which inspired this (nd several other pieces was projected onto the wall above the artists.
The short concert featured two other works, one of which was composed by the ensemble themselves. The 75-strong audience clearly enjoyed all three performances, and afterwards the conductor of the group intimated that Promenade IV was the group’s favourite piece to perform!
Robert Howard has composed a new setting of Ave verum corpus, to be sung by Prescot Parish Church Choir, with Tim Hall accompanying on the organ, on Good Friday 2016.
The composer wrote the music to the traditional Latin text with simplicity and singability in mind, especially for the younger members of the choir, which has recently had an intake of six eight- and nine-year-olds.
It is structured in two parts, the second of which repeats the first (musically) with some variations. The singing fades as the opening lines – translating as ‘Hail the true body’ – return, mirroring the dying of Christ on the cross.
All are welcome to hear the first performance at the Church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Prescot, L34 1LA, at 2pm on Friday 25 March 2016.
Click the thumbnail to view page 1 of the choral score.
The ensemble hail from Berlin, Germany, and are taking part in the concert as part of the Festival of Contemporary Music for All. The programme features several works inspired by images, to be performed alongside a projected display.
Robert gained inspiration from the Promenade sculptures of Anthony Caro (1996), currently on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The artwork inspired several companion pieces, forming part of his PhD thesis (2003).
A recording of the performance will be among the first to be uploaded to a newly relaunched CoMA website. The score was originally published in Forum London Composer’s Millennium Pack 2000, and will be republished in a future volume of CoMA’s Open Score.